Wednesday, May 19, 2010

The Front Garden

We've lived in our house for seven years now. When we bought this - our first home - we had a puppy. As we unpacked our moving boxes and started our new life, I was about eight weeks pregnant with Thing 1. Life has certainly evolved for us. Seven years later we have a beautiful (small) home, a seven-year-old dog, one six-year-old boy, one four-year-old boy, and one two-year-old little girl.

When we moved in our front garden was cedar hedge-heavy. Meaning, they were everywhere, even blocking our front window. The summer after I had Thing 1, I ripped out all the shrubs and plants from the front garden area and committed to starting from scratch. My gardening-expert mother-in-law helped me select a variety of hearty shrubs and plants that would not only look good in front of our home, but would survive deadly Ottawa winters. I planted them and was told to be patient, that in a few years things would fill in nicely and my garden would be complete.

That time, my friends, has come. I'm really happy with how this looks today. I spent a long time weeding and trimming yesterday, but it seems that the bulk of the work I've already put in has paid off. Not too much to do now other than basic maintenance. I'm hoping to add some flowers over the long weekend.

If you look very closely at the above photo, you will see that seven-year-old dog! He is a very serious watch-dog.

One of the best aspects of this garden is that the plants bloom at different times of the season, showering our front yard with a variety of vivid and deep colours just when you least expect it.


This tree started from almost nothing and is thriving today!


Monday, May 17, 2010

South Beach - The Update

Why, yes, I did manage to successfully complete the first two weeks of the South Beach diet! I finished day 14 of the dreaded "Phase One" of the plan on Sunday.

And since so many of you have asked me . . . .

I lost NINE pounds in two weeks!

That takes me only nine or ten pounds away from my goal weight, which means I am halfway there. Having started Phase Two of the plan today, I am already thoroughly enjoying reintroducing some whole grains back in my diet. After two weeks of eggs, omelets and frittatas for breakfast, I found it heavenly to dip my spoon into a luscious bowl of oatmeal sprinkled with cinnamon and walnuts (followed by a bowl of strawberries!).

I am hoping to remain committed to Phase Two for as long as it takes to lose the rest of the weight. But I can already tell that this is slowly becoming a way of life for me. I truly feel fantastic. My energy level is soaring, and my mood and outlook are also reaping the benefits of my new healthy lifestyle. There is no more bloated, full feeling after eating a bunch of carbs. I feel energetic, and truly and honestly, never hungry when I am following the plan. I have reached the point where I don't crave the cookies, ice cream, chips, and other "bad" snacks anymore. I actually want to reach for something wholesome that will give me energy. My husband says he has not seen this much of a change in me since I took anxiety medication for my anxiety.

If you're looking to lose weight off your middle, or are "apple-shaped" than this is the diet for you. Unfortunately, I am "pear-shaped" and am looking to lose the extra pounds around my hips and thighs. Most of my weight did come off my torso and belly in the past fourteen days. So to combat that issue I am planning to increase my exercise this week and make sure I do at least 20 minutes of hard cardio every day, and strength training every second day.

I thought I'd summarize a few positives and negatives of my past two weeks.

PROS

1. After nearly 20 years of drinking coffee, I am now drinking coffee without sugar!
2. I can honestly say I am not craving sugar or junk food in any way.
3. I have never eaten so many healthy, organic, vegetables in my entire life. And loved them.

CONS

1. I did slip up and drink the occasional diet Coke - which I am usually against and I never consume products with aspartame in them - but hey, there was really not that much I could drink!
2. I'm wondering if I actually am measuring all this olive oil properly. Eyeballing "one tablespoon" of olive oil can be pretty dangerous, I think I consumed a lot more than I should have.
3. There is SO much preparation. It has been very hard on me to plan and cook separate meals for me and the other four members of my family. It is ridiculously time consuming. I doubt I could continue it long term, so after I lose the weight I will need to brainstorm some ways to make this work for all of us.

I'll be sure to post more results next week!

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Easy Toddler Teddy Bear Craft

This toddler craft is so easy, I took it in to use with the preschool liturgy class I help teach at our church. They had a blast with it!

The craft is a simple teddy bear face, and is based on circles. Great time for a lesson on shapes.


First you will need to cut out one large circle, two smaller circles for ears, and then two slightly smaller circles for the inner ear area. Cut out one small black circle for a nose.

You can use two small circles for eyes, but we happened to have some craft eyes on hand. They added a very cute touch.


* Getting the circle shapes is simple if you are an avid crafter like me - I have a variety of different shape circle shapes, and I also own a circle cutting system. So it only takes me about two seconds to get the circles ready!

Glue your smaller ear circle onto the larger piece.

Add the same to the second ear. Take both ears and glue them to the back of the big circle. Now the bear has his two ears!

Glue on your black nose circle and your two eyes.

Have your toddler then draw the bear's mouth and voila . . . your teddy bear head is complete.

We glued our faces to the back of a piece of cardstock, but you could also construct a body for the bear out of bigger circles, or glue a popsicle stick to the back of the bear's head to make it into a puppet!

Monday, May 10, 2010

I can proudly proclaim that I just survived the first seven days of the South Beach diet.

If you're not familiar with the plan, the first two weeks are known as "Phase One". In that time, you cut out mostly all carbohydrates and focus on protein, "good" fats, and the lowest glycemic index carbs needed for satisfaction and blood sugar control. It is aimed at ending unhealthy cravings for sweets, baked good, and starches (unhealthy cravings? - yup, check). After 14 days you begin to reintroduce more carbohydrates into your diet.

I am not a fat person, and by most weight charts I am not overweight. I have had at least a dozen people tell me they can't tell that I have gained weight, and I guess that is a by-product of my genetic make-up and structure. I'm fairly tall, and tend to gain weight evenly, throughout my body. I carry weight well. I can easily gain or lose ten pounds and you won't be able to tell. (Not so fun when you lose the ten and a friend tells you she didn't notice!)

By the time the new year rolled around, I had gained about ten pounds since last summer. So I instituted big, lofty New Year Resolutions. Admittedly, they fell through with a resounding thud. I wasn't really into it, and I don't think I took the weight gain seriously. Fast forward to a few months later, and I had gained yet a few more pounds, taking the total up to a jaw-dropping EIGHTEEN pounds. I began to become more than a little alarmed. 90 per cent of my wardrobe wasn't fitting, and I was suddenly wearing yoga pants every day . . . and not looking so great in them.

I was one of those people who lost their baby weight from nursing. I really, truly could eat whatever I wanted and not gain weight (don't throw heavy bricks at me!). When Thing 3 weaned last summer, my metabolism took an unexpected jolt and plummeted. Suddenly a new reality set in and I was not able to eat whatever I wanted any longer. . . although I still did. And for the most part our family does eat very healthily - my issue has always been snacking. If I'm stressed or overwhelmed, out come the chips or cookies or ice cream.

It seemed simple. Summer is coming, and I refuse to buy new clothes. I am determined to fit into my summer wardrobe from last year. Most importantly I wanted to feel better, physically and emotionally. I want to have more energy, to have more even, balanced moods, and to lose that full, bloated feeling I always seem to get after filling up on carbs and high-sugar foods. I had heard great things about the South Beach diet and witnessed first hand the success my husband's cousin had on it (she looks fabulous!). I toyed with the idea before, but was always nursing or pregnant, so I knew I could never take on the task of eliminating so many carbs like that. Now seemed like the perfect time to try it.

Yes, it's hard. But not nearly as hard as I thought it would be. I've completed the first week and am into the second week of Phase One. It's been an absolutely gigantic lifestyle change for me. "Bad" carbs were a staple for me before, and usually the center of my meals. We are aggressive casserole and pasta eaters. Now I am usually eating a salad with protein for lunch, and maybe a grilled chicken breast with vegetables for supper. The snacks (there are two a day) are really filling me up, so I was surprised to find that I wasn't starving all the time. I have an abnormally large appetite - possibly because I have never been filling myself up with the proper foods in the past - and have often been known to eat more than most men sitting at the same table as me. So not being hungry or feeling that dip in my blood sugar is of crucial importance to me.

The absolute best part is I have indeed started to lose my cravings for the "bad stuff". I am feeling good - no, great - and it's affecting my whole personality. I don't feel exhausted or worn out, I feel energetic pretty much throughout the entire day. My moods aren't up and down, I'm not "tense" and "edgy" by the end of the day with the Things. I don't feel yucky or bloated, and there are no sugar crashes. Everything is more on an even keel. I haven't weighed myself yet so I don't know how much I've lost (I have committed to not weighing myself until the two weeks are over) but I can tell it is something. My face is thinner, and I can now button up a couple pairs of pants! Placing a little emphasis on my own personal self-care is doing me a world of good, I'd say.

Baby steps.

Tune in next week when I move into Phase Two and reveal my results from Phase One!

Sunday, May 09, 2010

Mother's Day

One of the best parts of Mother's Day for me is the hand-made art from school. Nothing warms my heart or tickles my emotions like receiving handiwork from my children.

Beautiful and thoughtful notes only sweeten the deal.

Isn't that cute? Four-year-old Thing 2 came home from school with this on Friday. I think I am supposed to be flattered that he thinks I am . . . . TWELVE? Yet not feeling so flattered over his affirmation that I love "all the foods".

Which makes me wonder if he was in cahoots with his father, who bought me these lovely rollerblades for Mother's Day. I suspect they will keep me busy and away from "all the foods"!

I used to be a big inline skater, and can still be found scooting up and down our street with the Things on my other pair of rollerblades . . . which my father purchased for me in 1996. I am most definitely looking forward to trying out this sweet, and definitely more modern, ride!

Happy Mother's Day to all you mothers out there. It's your special day, and you certainly deserve it!!

 
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